Recruitment & Selection (Premium)

Manager’s guide to recruitment


When advertising consider:

  • Wording is important. Specifying or implying that a man or woman is required for a position would result in sex discrimination (eg advertising for a waiter or waitress). Requiring a candidate to be “energetic” could, potentially, discriminate against disabled applicants, or on the grounds of age; and a condition that people should “fit in” could discriminate in a variety of ways, including on the grounds of race, sex, sexual orientation or disability.
  • It is useful to emphasise, usually at the bottom of the advertisement, that the organisation is an equal opportunities employer. There are various forms of words that can be used.
  • Some employers state that the position is open to all candidates regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, etc. Others simply say that they welcome applications from all sections of the community. An Equal Opportunities policy will help in any defence. Link to handbook equal opportunity policy
  • There may be occasions when it is necessary to advertise for a person of a specific gender, ethnicity or religion when recruiting, based on the fact that a job can only be effectively carried out by person with these in an Indian or Chinese restaurant, personal services or acting.

Social network sites

The use of these sites to attract candidates and enhance the company brand is a safe approach but using the sites for screening candidates by accessing their web pages carries some risk. If employers do this, they should take care to recognise the context in which information is posted. They should also take note that copying and storing such information without the subject’s consent is contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998.

Recruitment and Migrant Workers

When overseas nationals from outside the EU or EEA wish to come and work in the UK, they will require permission to do so. Usually, this will be through a certificate of sponsorship, issued by an employer which is licensed to sponsor migrant workers.

Who can work in the UK?

Those who do not need written permission to work in the UK include the following.

  • EEA citizens. Note, however, that the nationals of certain “newer” EU countries are subject to more stringent requirements (Employment of European Union Nationals).
  • Swiss nationals, who have, since 1 June 2002, had a similar right to live and work in the UK as a national of a state within the EEA.
  • Gibraltarians.
  • Commonwealth citizens who have permission to enter or remain in the UK on the basis that a grandparent was born here.
  • Commonwealth citizens between the ages of 17 and 27 who are essentially coming to the UK as part of an extended holiday and take up employment merely to support themselves while they enjoy their break. — since October 1994, such people have required valid UK entry clearance.
  • Spouses and children under 18 of overseas workers who can lawfully work in the UK.
  • Those with “settled” status in the UK — once a person has worked in the UK for five years on a variety of work permits, they may apply for indefinite leave to remain.

Further information on accepted proof of the right to work in the UK is available on the UK Visas and Immigration website at


Interviews can be with single or multiple assessors. The former has the advantage of being more informal, thereby encouraging the candidate to relax, whereas the latter allows the assessors to obtain more information.

The purpose of all interviews is:

  • To collect further information from the applicant so that you can decide:
  1. whether the candidate matches the employee specification for job(s) offered, and
  2. whether the candidate is suitable for the organisation and can contribute to its further development.
  • To give the candidate information so that he or she can decide:
    1. whether he or she would like the job on offer and,
    2. whether he or she would be happy in our organisation
  • To give a good image of the organisation as a business and, an employer.

This rules out stressful interviews but not stretching interviews where penetrating questions may be asked without unduly upsetting the candidate. The primary consideration is to obtain sufficient valid information from the interview to allow a judgement to be made about the candidate’s suitability and relative strengths and weaknesses.

At all times you should adopt an encouraging manner. Attempt to keep the candidate talking, by sympathetic nods and sounds if necessary. The candidate should remain in total ignorance of your own personal views although it is sometimes useful to express an opposing opinion to see how successful he or she is in defending their own point of view.

Pre Interview Preparation 

In order to gain meaningful information preparation is paramount.

  • Define the job — e.g. the job description
  • Define the ideal candidate, e.g. the person specification
  • Identify the competencies demanded by the job
  • Record the information seen by candidates (e.g. the job advertisement).
  • Provide candidates with information about the job and the company before the interview.
  • Provide candidates with clear details about where and when the interview will take place.
  • Read the candidates application carefully.
  • Plan the key question areas. If there is more than one interviewer check what questions each will ask.
  • Plan the interview format; who will go first, try not to interrupt each other as it is hard to know who is going to ask the next question. Who will open the interview and tell the candidate about the company; who will close the interview, answer questions and discuss the package.
  • Plan the domestic arrangements; who will collect the candidate, will you offer refreshments
  • If there is more than one candidate plan your timetable and stick to it
  • Select and prepare an appropriate interview room, ideally one which is:
  • well lit, clean, comfortable and at the right temperature
  • free of interruptions and background noise
  • free of clutter and intrusive equipment such as large computer monitors
  • equipped with appropriate seating.
  • Adapted for any disabilities the candidate may have

The Interview


Most candidates are nervous during a job interview as they do not know what you expect of them and they know they are being tested. However, selection interviewing is a two way process and the image of the company is also being assessed. A candidate will relate a bad experience to others and if you are inconsiderate you will not attract the best candidates who may have choices.

  1. Do not be late and keep the candidate on tenter hooks; apologise if you are.
  2. Introduce yourself and any other assessors
  3. Thank the candidate for attending.
  4. Check the candidates name to make sure it is the right person, you have the correct pronunciation and how they want to be addressed. With some non-European names, it is not always clear which name is the formal (surname) and which is the familiar (first) name, and it is probably best to clear this up at the beginning of the interview rather than risk being offensively familiar.
  5. Open with an ice-breaker statement or question to help the candidate get accustomed to situation and to relax. Questions such as “Did you find us OK?”; “How was your journey?”
  6. Advise the interviewee that you intend to take notes and explain why you are taking them (“as a reminder of the most important facts”, for example).
  7. Set the scene. Tell the candidate what pattern the interview will follow. What you expect to gain, and tell the candidate that they will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview.

Key Interview Skills

Many interviews are unstructured chats which have little or no validity in predicting how the candidate will perform in the job. It is important to be aware of, and practice, some key skills which are essential for all types of investigative interview such as discipline, grievance and establishing reasons for poor performance as well as selection interviews,

Questioning techniques

The point about questions is that different types elicit different types of answer, and so, some provide evidence and some do not. Using the right type of question at the right time is crucial to a successful interview. Every question must have a purpose and that is to gain evidence. The following introduces the main different types of question and their use.

The first broad distinction to understand is between open and closed questions.

Open Questions

Require the candidate to string more than one or two words together in order to answer and are good for finding out the candidate’s views and actions without them being given a guide from the interviewer as to the answer.

eg “Tell me about your job? Why did you leave …? How did you set about finding that job? What were your responsibilities at that organisation?” These questions can provide some evidence; however, an interview consisting solely of open questions would fail. At various points closed questions will be required.

Closed Questions

eg “How many staff were you directly responsible for”? “Who did you report to”? “What was the largest conference you ever organised?” When did you leave that job” These questions check facts and understanding.

Unfortunately the simple division between open and closed questions is not the only one. Within the open and closed categories there are further sub-divisions. For example, as you will see below, leading questions can be open or closed and multiple questions can be both. First we will look at the questions to avoid.

Leading Questions – AVOID

Questions that lead the candidate to the answer you wish to hear are counterproductive. In order to ask questions that gather evidence you must keep your mind open. Have you used questions similar to the following examples?

  • Seeking to confirm a conclusion

Many interviewers try to work things out in their own mind and then spend their time at the interview seeking to confirm their conclusion.

“So you enjoyed supervising staff then?”

“1 suppose you kept a diary to help you remember to refer back to projects?”

“Is that why you left then?”

A better way of phrasing these questions would have been:

“Which aspect of your job did you enjoy?”

“How did you organise your projects?”

“Why did you leave?”

  • Giving away your view

In this type of leading question the interviewer hints at or sometimes blatantly gives his or her point of view. The candidate is likely to trim his or her sails and tell you what you want to hear. If you do need to put contrary views try a third party approach. Examples of this type of leading question are:

“But you would agree that communication is a management responsibility?” (it appears the interviewer would agree)

“Did you use a computer or just manual recording” (the interviewer is keen on computers)

“Did you think of doing … instead?” (no, but thanks for the lead)

Alternatives to use:

“How should an organisation set about communications with its staff?”

“How were the figures handled?”

“Why was the job done that way?”

  • Trying to Match the Candidate to the Job

With this type of question a bad interviewer in a blunt way seeks to match the candidate to the job by asking pointless questions like:

“The job involves dealing with irate customers – could you do that?”

“You could work under pressure?”

Is the candidate likely to answer no?

Alternatives to use:

“Tell me about the clients in your job at ABC Ltd”

“Which parts of that job did you find most demanding?”

A similar problem occurs when the bad interviewer decides the candidate does not match the job.

“Do you not think you would find the work a little frustrating?”

With this question as well as trying to lead the candidate, the interviewer is also prompting theoretical responses ie what the candidate thinks he or she would do (see

Alternatives to use:

“Which parts of that job did you find least satisfying?” (Why? How did you cope?)

Vague Questions – AVOID

These are questions that do not gather evidence because they are either not specific or not practical.

Interviewer                                                    Candidate

Did you have irate clients?                              Yes a few

How did you deal with them?                           Well, mainly, just calm them down [How]

                                                                        Hear them out, be tactful [what did you say?}

Did this work?                                                 Usually yes. [when did it not?]

Thank you

Complicated Questions – AVOID

There are long-winded questions which confuse the candidate and probably the interviewer.

“Given the prevailing economic climate, depending on which indicators you believe, the country’s export problems and technological advance, the marketing effort needs to be focused, how would you deal with … if… and… ? (Gulp! l)

Try to preface your questions with the key word or phrase (eg How, Why, Tell me about, Tell me more, In what way? etc)

A better way of addressing the same issue:

“What should that organisation’s marketing strategy be in your view?’


Multiple Questions – AVOID

Again, these can lead to confusion and loss of control, eg

“Can you tell me what Materials Department does, how it is organised, what type of staff it employs, what unions they belong to, and what the IR climate is likely to be over the next five years?”

More evidence is gathered if areas are approached one at a time, eg

“How could the Materials Department be organised?”

“Why would you recommend that?”

“What problems would it create?”

Theoretical Questioning

Theoretical questions are useful when the candidate has no experience in the area you wish to explore or where you wish to test their intellectual application to situations which are new to them by asking them how they would respond. Where the candidate has experience then asking them about what they actually did or said in a specific example is much better evidence.

Probing Questions

If the interviewer stops at the first answer information will almost certainly be missed. Ask follow up questions such as:

  • What exactly did you do?
  • “Why was it important”,
  • Can you give me an example?
  • “What did you do/say next”.
  • What was the outcome?
  • How would you do it differently if you did it again?

Be aware of some appropriate areas for probing questions.

  • Past and present ambitions and aspirations.
  • Tasks and challenges in present and recent jobs.
  • Reasons for previous career decisions.
  • Skills obtained and to what level.
  • Past challenges and difficulties.
  • Reasons for applying for the present position.
  • Factors the candidate sees as a strong match for the job.
  • Aspects of the job which the candidate might find difficult.

“Banned” questions

Interviewers should not ask personal and discriminatory questions including:

  • How old are you?
  • Are you married?
  • What are your childcare arrangements?
  • Are you a member of a trade union?
  • What political party do you support?


Listening to the answers is just as important as asking the question. Active listening is not the same as hearing. Hearing is a physiological response to noise whereas listening involves processing what you hear. There are many barriers to communication:

    The listener is preoccupied with another issue and finds it difficult to stop their mind being distracted.
    The listener has already pre-judged the subject or the speaker. Their mind is closed, or only open to arguments that support their prejudice.
    The listener reacts negatively to the content of the message because of anxiety over what they may be required to do.
    The listener is not interested in the subject or speaker.
  • EMOTIONAL WORDSSome words cause an emotional reaction in the listener, who starts developing emotional responses around them instead of listening to the remaining remarks.
    The listener evaluates the message before the speaker has finished, often modifying the message to fit in with what they expect the speaker will say.
  • REHEARSALThe listener is too busy thinking about what they are going to say back.
    The listener finds it difficult to understand because of poor delivery by the speaker.
  • DISTRACTIONThe physical environment may create conditions under which effective communication cannot take place.

Conducting the Interview

Manner – Some Do’s and Don’ts


  • Smile where appropriate
  • Listen carefully and switch smoothly from one subject to another
  • Establish rapport early in the interview by responding to the candidate’s asides, comments and remarks.
  • Use words the candidate uses, particularly when referring to comments he or she made earlier.
  • Look interested in what is being said, try to concentrate completely.
  • Observe the candidate’s eye movements, facial expression and body movements ie Non-Verbal Communication (NVC). NVC could tell you as much about the candidate as the spoken word.


  • Don’t interrupt too often or too abruptly; use summarising what they have said and checking for understanding as a means of stopping the flow. It shows you are listening and they will not feel affronted.
  • Show or imply criticism or over-agreement with what is being said Interrupt the candidate
  • Change your facial expression, particularly when the candidate says something you dislike
  • Display too many verbal or physical mannerisms that distract eg “ums” and “ahs” in speech or physically fiddling with paper, pen, tie, etc.
  • Show you “know it all” and make the candidate feel inferior.

Closing the Interview

When you feel that you have all the information you need, you can close the interview by:

  • asking the candidate if there is anything else that he or she would like to mention about themselves
  • asking the candidate if he or she has anything to add or wishes to raise anything (not recommended for very talkative candidates!)
  • asking if he or she needs any more information about the job or the organisation
  • informing him or her about the next stage in the selection process (when the result of the interview can be expected; and that, if successful an offer of employment would be subject to satisfactory references/medical examination (where applicable)
  • thanking the candidate for attending

Making a Decision

Memories can play tricks so it is important to refer back to your notes, especially if you have seen more than one candidate. Even with one candidate, it is helpful to go back to the notes as the both the recency effect (what has just happened) and the primacy effect (what happened at the start) can colour your judgement at the end of an interview. A candidate who makes a bad start can be marked poor even if their subsequent answers were good, or a candidate we like can be judged better than their answers merit. Be objective, measure the answers against the competencies you identified for the job and the person specification.